A Zen guide to the problems of daily living, love, relationships, work, fear and suffering. Combining earthly wisdom with spiritual enlightenment, it describes how to live each moment to the full and shows the relevance of Zen to every aspect of life.
Charlotte Joko Beck was an American Zen teacher. Born in New Jersey, she studied music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and worked for some time as a pianist and piano teacher. She married and raised a family of four children, then separated from her husband and worked as a teacher, secretary, and assistant in a university department. She began Zen practice in her 40s with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi in Los Angeles, and later with Hakuun Yasutani and Soen Nakagawa. Having received Dharma transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi, she opened the Zen Center San Diego in 1983, serving as its head teacher until July 2006. Beck was responsible for a number of important innovations in Zen teaching. In particular, she taught students to work with the emotions of everyday life rather than attempting to avoid or escape them. Because she was adept at teaching students to work with their psychological states, she attracted a number of students who were interested in the relationship between Zen and modern psychology. Several of her Dharma heirs are practicing psychologists/psychiatrists. In 1995 Joko, along with three of her Dharma heirs, founded the Ordinary Mind Zen School. Shortly after Beck’s departure in 2006, she revoked Dharma transmission from two senior students: Ezra Bayda and Elizabeth Hamilton. Beck also stated that Zen Center San Diego should not claim to represent her or her teaching. In 2006 Joko moved to Prescott, Arizona, where she continued to teach until she retired as a teacher in late 2010. In the spring of 2010, Joko announced Gary Nafstad as her last Dharma successor
Maybe - for Zen is Nothing Special. Skimming thru this little miracle of a book again this morning for the umpteen zillionth time, I read:
"My dog doesn't worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn't get her breakfast, but she doesn't sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened.
As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine.
But we human beings are not like dogs. We have minds which get us into plenty of trouble…."
Last week when I went to the store, I thought back to a walk over there at about the same time of year, 15 years ago, shortly after my retirement.
It was weird.
You see, back then I saw myself as an object in a world of other objects. Those objects had eyes and were looking at me. Not with great interest, but - what were they THINKING? Not that I cared.
No wonder! For such is the end result of making a living in what ‘Dilbert’ (remember THAT little nerd?) called the Cube Farm.
The modern office, in other words. A place of quiet but powerfully efficacious POWER GAMES.
Michel Foucault ironically displays an 18th century bit of perfect prison planning in his Discipline and Punish. At the center point of the prison is a Panopticon - a vantage point from which all the prisoners can be discretely monitored...
And pity the poor bit players like you and me, ever “under the wheel (of power)”, as Hesse puts it, subconsciously find themselves putting their own minutest actions under a glaring spotlight!
Know the feeling?
The world is too much with us in the modern workplace.
It kills your music - and I should know. For it burnt me out. In my retirement, sitting here in my rocking chair, I started reading Solzhenitzen’s The First Circle in those first few months.
I read about his longtime home, the Sharaska - concealed within the murky cloud cover of the Soviet Gulag - and with him penetrated deeply into the perfidious modern methodology for the destruction of our souls.
In my office, as in the Sharaska, cool was King - all emotions being constantly kept under wraps. And with incessantly belittling supervision, there was not even room to Squirm.
But now I was energized by my solidarity with these communist ‘prisoners’ and gained room to poke my head free of its heavy yoke - my supervisors’ leaden and soulless dehumanization of my creative spirit.
And as a result, I put my own MOTIVES into the spotlight, as well.
Within a few years I had seen CLEAR THROUGH their entrapment.
If you’re like me, there’s HOPE. Zen study can fix that.
You see, nowadays - unchecked - OUR own, and OTHERS’ own worlds can become worthless collections of objective thoughts about objects!
An endlessly complicated collection of mirrors... just read a bit of Deleuze, if you’ve never felt postmodernist isolation - you’ll catch on!
But then I thought of my walk in the present.
I had now become more like Charlotte’s dog.
In the liberty of retirement I was free and comfortable in my own skin. My burnt out phony self of had vanished in a mere puff of smoke.
So what had happened? Certainly, with age most people let things go more easily.
But it was more than that.
Back then, I had seen things objectively - in a world of OBjects - and now I saw things subjectively in a world of SUBjects. Like when I was a kid.
I changed from being burdened by the weight of past events to being responsible for living and loving in the present. I read and prayed and meditated rather than reading compulsively, nonstop.
I had learned to BREATHE again.
My Burnout was actually a new Birth.
When I bought Charlotte’s book in the late eighties I thought (at first) it had helped me quite a bit.
Now I KNOW she helped me to change just enough.
But that ‘just enough’ - those little tweaks of insight - that ‘tenth of an inch’s difference’ - was a Whole LOT.
A Whole EARTHSHAKING lot.
Funny, isn’t it? ***
This little gem has helped so many people to see their world ANEW, so here goes:
FIVE BRIGHT BRILLIANT FULL STARS, Charlotte!
You may now be gone but your SOUL lives in this book.
This is a great no-nonsense guide to Zen spirituality, free of Asian exoticism and specialized language, whose only purpose is to make you see. According to Joko Beck, enlightenment is really very simple and yet may take an entire lifetime--or more--to achieve. Enlightenment consists in this: being present in the moment, every moment, for the rest of your life.
For you Christians who have been nourished by the spirituality of Juliana of Norwich, Meister Eckhardt and Brother Laurence of the Resurrection, you will discover a kindred spirit here.
I have read a lot of books on Zen, and I have to say, this is probably one of the clearest, most accessible and relatable books on the subject that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Charlotte Joko Beck is a compassionate, non-nonsense and warm teacher: reading her essays left me feeling comforted and very serene. When I read a book like this one, where so much emphasis is put on simple zazen practice and compassion, I’m not sure where the idea of Zen being harsh and militaristic comes from…
The writing is straight-forward and engaging, realistic but still completely gentle. The essays are transcribed talks given by Beck to her students, sometimes followed by some questions and answers, and organized by themes, such as feelings, suffering, ideals and choices. There is no mysticism or religious trimmings to her essays: just discussion on the practice, and the effect it has on one’s life and the way we experience it. Some people have referred to this approach as an Americanization of Zen, and Beck explains that this is not simply about making Zen look American, but about practicing it in a way that works best in the culture.
I love that Beck will not give her students any false hopes, that she will not try to sell them the practice of Zen by pretending that it will make their lives better. She insists that no one is perfect, that the practice is hard and that no one can do the work for you. She is also quick to add that persevering in one’s practice will smooth all those hurdles out, but the fact of the matter is, you have to stick to it!
I was very impressed with how much material Beck packs in every single chapter: not a word is wasted! Even the introduction and the author interview at the end of my edition were just packed with profound yet incredibly clear teachings and ideas. A must-read for anyone interested in or practicing Zen.
I'll be honest here. The reason I got these books on Zen and meditation in the first place was to help me clarify what I was supposed to be doing in karate.
Damn this book is sobering. I don't even know where to start...
This book is a series of lectures that were transcribed by some of Joko's students. I guess the biggest thing that I got out of this book is the idea that yesterday is gone and tomorrow's not here yet so just live out today. Now I know that the point isn't that *tomorrow* isn't here. It's more like the next second isn't here yet. But those are baby steps.
Another thing that's big are the ideas of the superstructure and the ego. I didn't realize how much the ego rules everything. I apply a superstructure on top of everything! The idea of Zen kinda leaves me at a crossroads - if I accept the philosophy, which, if I'm honest with myself, I've already begun to accept in very subtle ways, then it feels like it's a very lonely path.
I wanted to read more on Zen because the practical application of it seems like an extension of ACT therapy, just in a more spiritual and all-encompassing way. There were some parts that resonated with me, and I appreciate how easy to understand this book was while not dumbing down the concepts of Zen buddhism. It is not very well-structured but I didn't mind it much, as the strange flow fits the theme. However, it is not very practical and also not really for total beginners. If this was all the criticism I had, this book would get 4 stars.
But: I understand that buddhism is a religion and Zen not just a buzzword I can tag onto my therapy skills to help myself. However if someone claims you can gain supernatural powers of hearing through meditation, it's a just a step too far for me. As is claiming that health problems are caused by a lack of meditation and enlightenment.
The parts of the books that did speak to me encouraged me to read more on the practice of Zen buddhism. Maybe the next one wont be second hand and have such a strong smell of incense.
I’m still pretty new to the whole Buddhism thing, and for a long time I was intimidated by zen: I held the common, but mistaken, belief that it was highly ascetic and all about denying human emotions and desires. It took some time for me to be able to read a book like Everyday Zen and really understand what it’s saying. In fact, zen does not ask you to deny your emotions. It asks you to feel them, really feel them, without obsessing on them or rationalizing them, reacting to them prematurely or injudiciously, clinging to them, or pushing them away. When we allow ourselves to really experience our feelings, we can get used to their ebb and flow and get on with our lives without being in constant, unproductive dialogue with ourselves.
This is the theme of Everyday Zen, and Charlotte Joko Beck proves to be an amazing teacher. I’m the first to admit that there are many Buddhist thinkers who just don’t have a gift for writing, but I put Beck up there with Pema Chodron among those who really do have a gift. Her writing is simple but engaging, compassionate yet uncompromising, and filled with humor.
More so than with any other Buddhist book I’ve read, I’ve found myself repeating ideas from this one as I go about my daily life. All there is to do is what’s in front of us. There is no good or bad; things are always just the way they are. We are always right here, right where we are in this moment. No problem.
This is my favorite Zen/Buddhism book to date. I read it in the middle of a crisis in my life, and it might have saved my marriage, because it spoke straight to me. About how life doesn't "work for you," about how people resist their lives and live in their dreams and fantasies, about how we expect things from other people and our lives and suffer when we are disappointed.
Joko speaks with such a feeling for the problems of real life that she could be any age, at any stage of practice (except that she's actually been practicing Zen so long that she must be old---I think she's now deceased). She talks about how we must do what needs doing...preparing food for other people, raising children, going to work, etc. How those things are the stuff of nirvana and fulfillment before our eyes, but we refuse to see.
She talks about love: people expect relationships to "work" for them, to serve them and reflect their glory, and how we run away from relationships that don't stroke our egos and let us off easy.
She talks about people dying; how they realize before they die that life is really not going to turn out the way they expect it...suddenly they are at peace, finally having released their expectations, cravings, disappointments, and anger.
She talks a lot about anger---how we can learn to embrace all our human feelings with a "big mind," feeling angry without creating new negative realities out of angry speech and action.
And so on. A wealth of wisdom and hope for someone who suddenly feels the pinch of life and knows there is no one to save her. Maybe the book will be dryer for someone who is not in a crisis, or who is not ready to hear the lessons in it. Yet I think it is still a much better book for beginners than Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind or other, more traditional philosophical zen books.
One of the challenges of maintaining any kind of spiritual practice is bringing it into your daily routine. This modern world we live in is just full of distractions, some important, others less so- and I've found it's easy to run through an entire day without having spent even five seconds in the right mindset. For Buddhists and Buddhist fellow travelers like me, this tends to manifest most obviously as a neglect of sitting meditation, but it's really part of a whole lifestyle of neglect- reading poisonous media, forgetting compassion in difficult situations, not showing ourselves or others or this universe the proper respect. But what is to be done about it?
In the meditation lectures that form "Everyday Zen", Charlotte Joko Beck spends a lot of time talking this. Her wisdom flows like a good common sense talk from a wise old woman who personally saw a lot of pain in her life, which is exactly the kind of teacher I think we should all seek out. Her teaching isn't earth shaking- it basically boils down to practice every day with the material you've got in your own life- all that shit that bothers you the 99% of the time you're not meditating. Also, try to do sitting meditation, show yourself and others more compassion, and don't take anything, including Buddhism, too seriously. And there's no better time to start than right this minute.
If you like Pema Chodron's books, you'll probably enjoy Joko Beck's- they share a similar vein of humor and straight talk. Maybe that's because they share a lot of life experiences- coming to Buddhism late, after marriage and divorce, working jobs, and generally being out there in the world. I think in some ways you've got to have some trouble before you can speak to anyone else about their problems- advice from someone who hasn't suffered always feels inauthentic and a little false.
One final tip from my personal experience. If you have trouble making it through these books, put one in your bathroom. I guarantee you'll always find 5 minutes a day to read it, and that's about all it takes. The only drawback is, depending on your regularity and the length of the book, it can take some time to make it through a longer volume- even this one, at 200 pages, took me almost a year to finish. But what else do you have going on in there?
It has helped me to be more accepting of myself and everything else, just the way it is. It has helped me to see (or reminded me) that I don't have to change myself or my life, to try to get rid of my "problems" (an endless and frustrating goose chase). Actually, I can accept them, and in that acceptance, they lessen. It has given me faith and clarity in my meditation practice, and inspiration and motivation to keep practicing. The first time I tried to read it (4 or 5 years ago), I didn't get all the way through. It resonates deeper every time I read it. It can be very far out, very "zen" at times, so it's helpful having a meditation practice to have a clue as to what the hell she's talking about.
Just an incredible book. I practiced for several years with Charlotte Joko Beck's dharma heir, Elihu Genmyo Smith, at the Prairie Zen Center. So I had heard about her, but was never completely aware of her work. I have to thank GoodReads for leading me to this book. It was ranked highly on the listopia "Buddhist Reading List" so I decided to make it part of my practice. After sitting, I would read a section of the book, much like I did previously with Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.
Joko Beck is unlike any other Zen teacher I have read or practiced with. Her way of speaking is so direct, so stripped of all religious pomp. Zen all too often comes wrapped in enigmas which the practitioner must experience to see through. But Joko Beck removes that. She shifts the focus from Satori or other mystical experiences to the simple practice of experiencing life.
Everyday Zen has to be one of the most powerful books I've read on Zen - right up there with Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. But Joko Beck is such a different teacher than Suzuki. Her power comes her clear, lucid, non-nonsense explanations. An incredible individual, and a book certainly capable of changing lives.
An in-depth account about what it means practice Zen Buddhism. How to look at enlightenment and what it actually is and what to expect in the pursuit of it without dressing it up to be something all airy-fairy which it isn’t. This isn’t dressing up something difficult so that it seems easy; it is showing you exactly what to expect and the difficulties that go with it. It’s a very honest account. So much of religion and car sales just tell you the easy pleasant stuff and not the work you need to do to make it work, but you are shown that life can be more joyful if you are willing to do the work and face what you avoid. Welcome to the challenge of Zen.
Much like Beck's subsequent book 'Nothing special' there is no other writer (that I've found so far) that has written with anywhere near the sort of clarity, intelligence, profundity, sheer scary ass wisdom about meditation/mindfulness/Zen as this lady did. She cuts through the bullshit with the sharpest hottest knife. There are no riddles, she does not try to be coy or obscure like some writers about something that is already quite hard to grasp already. And I thank her so strongly for giving the world these books. They are absolute gold.
Before I read these my understanding of meditation was very limited. She doesn't really go into the how to mediate. She instead tells you why you are meditating, what its for, what it should do. This is immensely useful and inspiring. She made me see how meditation is basically psychology/self help/CBT but at a deep deep spiritual level that really works. She pulls no punches about how incredibly hard constant life long practice will be but inspired me to really take my meditation seriously and to really dedicate time every day to it.
If you are disillusioned or unsure about why you are meditating please please read these books.
If you ever feel like reading about selfeducation and mindfulness you should give Charlotte Beck a chance. This book has accompanied me on my search for understanding on meditation, awareness and orientation in life for well over 15 years by now. I have always been fascinated by Jokos Becks words but had and still have a hard time to accept all the implications and deeper meanings. She is a very, very strict person and yet ever so understanding and caring. By and by I manage to accept what she says instead of hanging on with my soothing illusions. She very much helped me to accept my responsility, toward others, the world and myself.
You might not like what she has to say but it's very likely that you feel she's right. There is no book I have read so often as this one. I took it with me on my hikes and travel-light holidays , have bought and recommended it again and again. It's very serious stuff but gave me comfort and made me stop whining.
"It was ok" is about all I can say about this book. Some of her points were well-taken, and she does a good job of hitting all the main zen and meditation points, but the delivery just didn't endear the book to me. Part of it might be that it was a transcription of actual talks that the author has given, so it's not really laid out like a usual book. Also, it irked me how her main point came down to "meditate, know yourself, and you will Just Know what to do". It seemed a bit of a cop-out to avoid having to get into the more complicated situations that we all know are out there.
The author also had a tendency to go a bit too far in explanation, then backtrack in a way that was slightly annoying. "Do X and Y! Now, I'm not saying do _Y_, but do...a little of Y." Again, maybe it's a legacy of having been a transcription, where the author gets slightly off point and then backtracks to clarify, but in a book I found this disorienting.
Don't let the possibly pop-psyche, self-helpy title fool you! Joko is the real deal. The path is nothing but practice, thorough-going effort to accept this moment as it is, with no reservations. On giving up hope - "We have to give up this idea in our heads that somehow, if we could only figure it out, there's some way to have this perfect life that is just right for us. Life is the way it is. And only when we begin to give up those maneuvers does life begin to be more satisfactory."
Wow. I'm a bit torn about Everyday Zen. I'm not sure it's genius, or just very dreary. It took me soooo long to get through those 200 odd pages... my paperback looks like it's been read several times, but it's just that I've taken it with me so many times (it's traveled many miles with me). At the same time, though, the book contains so many amazing things Joko Beck said that are so real and touching and eye-opening, like...
So as Zen students you have one job: to bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that it is.
See, anything that we search for is going to disappoint us. Because there are no perfect beings, perfect jobs, perfect places to live.
Now just one thing and one thing alone creates this hostile world, and that is our thoughts - our picture and our fantasies. They create a world of time and space and suffering. And yet, if we try to find the past and the future that our thoughts dwell upon, we find it is impossible - they are ungraspable.
Everything is impermanent; sooner or later everything goes away. Renunciation is a state of non-attachment, acceptance of this going away. [...] Without destruction, there could be no new life; and the wonder of life, the constant change, could not be. We must live and die. And this process is perfection itself.
Modern physics makes it clear that we are 'one', that we are just different manifestations of one energy, and that's not hard to comprehend intellectually. But as human beings with minds, bodies, and emotions, how much do we know that in every cell of the body?
Life is not particularly the way we want it to be, it is just the way it is.
So long as we have any picture of how we're supposed to be or how other people are supposed to be, we are attached; and a truly spiritual life is simply the absence of that. 'To study the self is to forget the self', in the words of Dogen Zenji.
That's Zen. That's Buddhism. Joko Beck doesn't romanticize or idealize it. And, after all, the book doesn't need to be an easy read. To me, reading the book took some effort. It was work. But so is serious practice!
Picked up at a Friends of the Library book sale, pre-Covid, kind of on a lark. I let it sit on the bookshelf for a while but once I picked it up it got its hooks into me.
This is a collection of dharma talks on Zen by the American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, each talk contained by two or three pages. It's not a book you want to read quickly; rather, you might read two or three talks and then stop to chew on them for a time. That, anyway, is the approach I took, and I found it fruitful, first, because attentively reading the talks uses up a good bit of mental energy, and second, because, like so much in Zen practice, this is stuff that is meant to be applied, so piecemealing it seems appropriate. It's a very good book, and though it does presuppose some knowledge of Zen practice (the talks are aimed at American students from the early 80s who had just a little experience of sitting zazen at Joko's center), it's not nearly enough to put off an interested reader. My only issues that kept me from giving "Everyday Zen" a 5-star rating were personal issues with the text that probably say more about me than the book: the talks are not as systematic in the presentation of information as I would like (because they're just individual talks), the discursive style is a little weird in print, though I can imagine Joko being pretty charismatic in person, and some traces of very un-Zen-like cynicism/grouchiness.
Caveats: I am not "really" a Zen practitioner--my experience with meditation comes from mindfulness for depression and anxiety treatment, as prescribed by Marsha Linehan's DBT training and my CBT therapist talking to me about John Kabat-Zinn. But this book has furthered my knowledge of certain phenomena of the mind that I encounter when I do mindfulness practice, in addition to deepening my resolve to continue with meditation as a tool to greater clarity and compassion in my life.
this was my first time reading anything about zen/buddhism and i think this book is an incredible starting place,,., charlotte joko is extremely well spoken and provides lots of examples for the philosophy so even though there were concepts that were quite challenging to grasp (the reason this 200 pg book took me like a month to read 😭 each chapter end i had to book down the book n rlly force my brain to have a thought) it was never confusing!!
whilst i found the idea of a complete non-attached lifestyle hard to agree with the idea of the non-reality of our thoughts was absolutely fascinating!!! The idea of the True Self and how it relates to the experience was bananas and the use throughout the book of biblical phrases but put through this zen lens was rlly eye opening
SHIT THAT RESONATED WITH ME ENOUGH TO PUT THE PAGE NUMBER IN MY NOTES APP
-the idea that we only have this exact moment, concepts like past and present are essentially non-reality “If I don’t do it now, when else can i do it.”
-there are no problems only decisions.,,. and if a decision is giving us stress then it is not from the external but because we do not know the internal well enough,.. we have questions about our self that go unanswered so we don’t know how to act.,, when we dismantle the idea of “I” and we truely engage with the experience the will be no worry only action
- Guilt based morality.., Joko spoke about thinking things like “i should be kinder” are still false thoughts that cloud the experience even thought the come from a “moral” place. If we attune ourself completely with the experience compassion and love with come naturally.., you don’t have to struggle to be nicer to someone, you realise that you and the other are essentially the same and compassion will come from that realisation
-all the christian tie ins like mother Teresa and the Garden of Eden being the simple life, “ Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”
ANYWAY THERE R HONESTLY SO MANY BITS THAT GAGGED ME I RLLY FEEL LIKE I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK AGAIN IN A YEAR OR SO TO TRUELY INGRAIN THE CONCEPTS INTO MY BRAIN N FR FR UNDERSTAND MAMAMIA
(also on a side i read this book because my dad told me to and i think a part of the reason i have it 5 stars in bc there were several times when i was reading it that i got an insight into how his mind woks…. several of the philosophies joko talks about i recognised not from hearing him speak about them but by watching him practice them.,, which was really special for me)
I really enjoyed this book, which is a transcription of several of Joko Beck’s dharma talks adapting Zen Buddhism to our busy American lives. We spend a lot of time separate from others and the earth, and this volume helps the reader find the path to integration.
We tend to look to fulfill our sometimes perfect and sometimes no-so-perfect lives with objects we believe will be the source of our happiness. Some of those objects are things: houses and cars, hobbies and entertainment, jobs and social groups. Though, we also objectify people: spouses, children, other family members, friends. When the subject (us) is still not satisfied with the object/s (things and other people), we seek religious enlightenment and salvation.
None of these people or things can actually solve our true problem: suffering. Suffering happens when we run from pain, though our pain is only something that comes from what many Zen folks call “emotion-thought” which is basically the perception of false-self realized in our reactions.
Zen sesshins draw us inward to connect us to all beings and Infinite Energy. First we sit and we are aware that we’re sitting. Then maybe we notice our thoughts, observing them without judgment. The thoughts then begin to melt away as they are not real but simply our perception of what is real. The only thing real is the present moment.
Sesshin allows us to see the barriers between us and that which is real. We begin as a subject engaging objects, but eventually there is no separation between subject and object. Eventually there is no subject and no object. This should not lead to a passive acceptance of bad things happening in our world. This should lead us to right action.
A Buddha has no barriers and lives a fully integrated life. Since we live in a world that is so demanding of us, we need a practice that centers and grounds us. We need sesshin. Since our society ostensibly orients us away from true self to fixate on external things as a source of happiness, we need an Everyday Zen to help us return to true source.
It was a nice experience reading this book. My friend advised me to read it and at the beginning I didn't really like it. The writer would always warn you how hard is to do Zazen and practice.. so I started to feel kind of negative about it but the author's point was to show you the reality of life. It changed my mind completely. For hopeless dreamer it was hard to get those points but now I am really glad that I read it. Some good advices I took for myself are living in present, living in every moment and feel everything, even the anger, sadness, we have to feel everything and it is okay. :)) Of course there are many things to take but I am not gonna spoil it with my review. You should experience it by yourself and enjoy it :)
Charlotte Joko Beck is one of my favorite zen teachers, from her books to her videos, how she teaches is amazing to me. This book was as good as her other, “Nothing Special.” From the wisdom of knowing that “If we require life to be a certain way inevitably we will suffer - since life is always the way it is, and not always fair, not always pleasant. Life isn’t particularly the way we want it to be, its just the way it is and that need not prevent our enjoyment, our appreciation, and our gratitude”. Knowing that we cannot experience our life if we are always thinking about it, conceptualizing about it, and having opinions about it. Just experience it knowing our thoughts and emotions are impermanent and ever changing.
Un approccio allo zen davvero immediato e lampante, senza frasi sospese, koan irraggiungibili e sospensione del buonsenso. Un approccio, pertanto, difficile e ostile: non ci si può rifugiare dietro ad orientalismi fumosi e sfuggenti. Tocca ammettere che la pratica è un percorso alla portata di tutti, ma per pochi. E molti di quei pochi si smarriscono, alla ricerca di qualcosa di più glitterato, sostanzioso, raccontabile. Il testo procede tra rivelazioni e durezze, e dopo un poco rimangono soprattutto le seconde. Un libro liscio, ma a volte di una liscività troppo metallica.
I didn't really know how to rate this as it is a reproduction of Joko's talks collected by Smith but it was...I don't want to use the word 'enlightening' after having finished it but it definitely gives a lot to reflect on and is a great book to keep around to reference, with the talks being collected in groups such as 'service' or 'relationships' if you ever find yourself needing to recap the advice in a specific area. As my first look into Zen it was definitely accessible and the suggestions for further reading seem worthwhile.
Without any attempts to persuade me, Joko makes a compelling case for practicing zazen (sitting). Actually, after reading this I'm convinced that if you are willing to live life as it is, without the many layers of unreality that we (the self) cover it with to protect ourselves, then practicing is probably one of the most important things that you can do. That's obviously not a very qualified statement coming from me, but that's my feeling. Joko's analogies and explanations illuminated for me what practice is, why one might do it, and hangups that one might have when they practice. I'd recommend this book.
I have read a couple of zen books so far and this one was the better of the lot. Sometimes the book said a lot but I didn't take anything away but that's probably me not understanding. There were some good takeaways especially at the end.
A couple dozen talks transcribed, lightly edited, and presented here, each offering an informal, unpretentious exploration of the Dharma generally, and of zazen (sitting meditation) particularly. Each talk had a memorable line or two, but the essays themselves weren't ones I'll be coming back to.
A few passages worth remembering:
"Someone said to me a few days ago, "you know, you never talk about enlightenment. Could you say something about it?" The problem with talking about enlightenment is that our talk tends to create a picture of what is – yet enlightenment is not a picture, but the shattering of all our pictures." (173)
"There's a famous Buddhist parable: hey man was being chased by a tiger. In his desperation he dove over the side of a cliff and grab them. As the tiger way above him he looked below and saw another tiger at the base of the cliff, waiting for him to fall. To top it all off to mice were nine away at the vine. At that moment he spotted a luscious strawberry and, holding the vine with one hand, he picked the strawberry and ate it. It was delicious! What finally happened to the man? We know, of course. Notice that the man being chased by a tiger didn't lie down and say, "oh, you beautiful creature. We are one. Please eat me. "The story is not about being foolish – even though on one level, the man and the tiger are one. The man did his best to protect himself, as we all should. Nevertheless, if were left hanging on that vine, we can either waste the last moment of life or we can appreciate it. And isn't every moment the last moment? There is no moment other than this." (120)
"Suzuki Roshi said, "Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but excepting that they go away." Everything is in permanent; sooner or later everything goes away. Renunciation is a state of nonattachment, acceptance of this going away." (110)